I'm not sure what this means in Mozart's K 545 but it is that same movement in which the left hand is almost 100% Alberti bass, that is the second movement.

I see twice a passage of 8 16th notes marked with staccato and a slur. I have listened to it and I can hear a clear separation between notes in that passage just like I would with staccato. But I also see a legato marking(implicit in my case but I have seen it explicitly put in by editors) for the whole movement. In other words if I don't see a slur or a staccato, especially if it is in the left hand, it is still legato.

So what does this mean when I have a passage marked both legato and staccato? Does this mean that I should play legato but with clear separation like what I hear(so in other words smoothly transition from 1 staccato to the next)? Or does this mean portato or mezzo-staccato(which essentially is just nonlegato because that is what is in between legato and staccato)?


The slur in the notation you encountered does not mean legato it's a phrase mark. It's an indication of the composer or the editor that this set of notes should be played staccato but also as a significant whole, for example by varying the volume of the notes in the phrase or by playing (some of) the notes more tenuto.

In Romantic repertoire (where this kind of notation is more frequent) some interpreters use dabs of pedal and some even use the pedal over the whole passage making the staccato inaudible, while still keeping the idea of staccato. Ofcourse using the pedal this way is not the way to go in this Mozart.

In general I think it's clearer to think of a slur as a phrase mark and less of an indication of the articulation to be used, even in the case without the staccato dots. It makes you more creative when you are thinking more of the actual intention of the composer, even when in 95% of the time it means the use of legato.

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From your description, these markings were almost certainly added by the editor of whatever edition you are using, and mean whatever the editor thought they meant. (Without knowing the editor and the date of the edition, guessing what he meant is just that - guessing).

When you listened to "it", of course you are just hearing what the performer did (and you didn't tell us whether that was someone with a good reputation as a Mozart interpreter, or "some random guy with a YouTube account," but either way it isn't a definitive guide to anything.

The best option is to look at what Mozart actually wrote, not what some editor thought he ought to have written (from the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe at https://imslp.org/wiki/Special:ImagefromIndex/456602/torat). The dotted slurs and notes in small type are editorial additions.

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Note that Mozart (and his contemporaries like Haydn, and even early Beethoven) wrote two different marks for "staccato". The staccato dots mean the notes have about half the written duration, which some people might call "non legato" rather than "staccato" in a slow tempo. The dashes mean "play the note as short as you can". The slow movement of K545 contains both markings.

There is one feature of the original slur marks which isn't the obvious (or for "obvious" read "lazy"?) way to play it: the second beat of the bar is usually separated from the first beat by the slurs (e.g. in bar 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 etc).

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  • In my opinion, one shouldn't play Mozart at a serious level without hearing and taking into consideration the capabilities of the pianos of Mozart's time. (Recordings on instruments from the time, or modern replicas, are not too hard to find.) They have (relative to their total volume) a stronger attack and faster decay than modern pianos, making it much easier to play non-legato. – Alexander Woo Jul 6 '18 at 4:44

Legato for the movement doesn't mean every single note has to be legato. It could mean that you might wish to play the staccato notes slightly less staccato than you would in a movement not marked legato. It's really up to you. I personally think that movement sounds better if the staccato notes are "mezzo-staccato." And most recordings of those notes are mezzo-staccato as well. I used to play that sonata, and sometimes I would do the staccato very soft and light and quick. Other times, I would play it only slightly less smoothly than the rest of the movement. Ultimately, you need to make the artistic choice for yourself.

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